Lake Charles (French: Lac Charles) is the fifth-largest incorporated city in the U.S. state of Louisiana, located on Lake Charles, Prien Lake, and the Calcasieu River. Founded in 1861 in Calcasieu Parish, it is a major industrial, cultural, and educational center in the southwest region of the state.
As of the 2010 census, the population was 71,993. Lake Charles is the principal city of the Lake Charles Metropolitan Statistical Area, having a population of 202,040. It is the larger principal city of the Lake Charles-Jennings Combined Statistical Area, with a population of 225,235. The 2010 population of the five-parish area of Southwest Louisiana was 292,619.
It is considered a regionally significant center of petrochemical refining, gaming, tourism, and education, being home to McNeese State University and Sowela Technical Community College. Because of the lakes and waterways throughout the city, metropolitan Lake Charles is often referred to as the Lake Area.
Lake Charles is tied with Port Arthur, Texas, and Astoria, Oregon, as the most humid city in the contiguous United States, and the second-most humid measured location behind unincorporated Quillayute, Washington. The average relative humidity in Lake Charles is 90% in the morning, and 72% in the afternoon.
The city has four libraries. The first library, financed by Andrew Carnegie, opened in 1904. It is named the Carnegie Memorial Library after him; it also houses the Southwest Louisiana Genealogical and Historical Library. Lake Charles is also home to Epps Memorial Library in north Lake Charles, and Central Library located off of Ernest Street. The Calcasieu Parish Public Library has thirteen locations throughout Calcasieu Parish. McNeese State University’s Frazar Memorial Library contains over 400,000 volumes.
Lake Charles has a strong Creole & Cajun culture because of its location in south Louisiana. The city has its own symphony orchestra, the Lake Charles Symphony. It was founded in 1938 and hosts concerts at the Rosa Hart Theatre, which has a capacity of over 2,000.
Lake Charles is home to a number of museums and art galleries. The largest, Imperial Calcasieu Museum, features a permanent historic exhibit with artifacts and an art gallery.Its grounds are home to the Sallier oak tree, which is around 400 years old. The Historic City Hall Arts and Cultural Center is used as exhibition space; moving art exhibits are displayed at this public art gallery each month. It also hosts the Charlestown Farmers’ Market, which provides a venue for local farmers and merchants to sell goods.The USS Orleck Naval Museum, a naval destroyer from 1945, is open for public tours as a veterans memorial and museum. It is located on the river in North Lake Charles.